Record Cobb County Bow Buck Turns Out To Be A Road Kill
A record buck alleged to have been taken by a bowhunter in west Cobb County on Nov. 29, was in fact the victim of a collision with a car.
On Monday, Nov. 29, 1999, shortly before noon, I received a call from Jackie White, a taxidermist who operates Sweetwater Taxidermy on Bankhead Highway in Mableton.
“I’ve got a big buck that I thought you’d like to know about,” said Jackie. “It was just killed this morning in west Cobb County with a bow. It’s a monster, and I’m sure it’s some kind of record.”
I asked Jackie a few questions about the size of the buck’s antlers. From his description, I knew the buck was big. Jackie told me the man who claimed to have arrowed the buck had just brought it into his shop intact. Jackie field-dressed the buck for the man and then called me. I asked Jackie if the hunter would allow me to take photos of the deer, and Jackie said, “No problem.”
When I arrived at the shop 30 minutes later, the man who had brought the deer in had gone home to change into some camo clothing and to get his bow for the photo shoot. The buck was on the floor in the back of the shop. It was a large-bodied buck that probably dressed out around 160 pounds, but it appeared to have lost a lot of weight due to heavy rutting activity. It was definitely a mature buck and I guessed the deer’s age to be around 5 1/2.
The 13-point buck had a massive, heavily-palmated rack with several non-typical points. It was a basic 4×5 with three abnormal points on the right and one on the left. Both back tines measured more than 12 inches in length. If the buck had been killed with a bow, I knew it would score high in the Pope & Young record book as a non-typical.
I examined the buck’s antlers and rolled the carcass over to look at the wound. There was a large baseball-sized hole in the deer’s left hindquarter high up in the ham. I also noticed that the buck’s back right leg was broken (compound fracture) about six inches above the hoof. There was no sign of a broken arrow or broadhead in the wound. Even though this was a large, open flesh wound, it did not appear to be a fatal wound and I assumed that the deer bled to death after being shot.
I asked Jackie if he thought any major arteries had been cut, and he told me that the body cavity had been full of blood when he field dressed it less than an hour earlier. This seemed odd because there was no sign that the arrow had penetrated into the deer’s body cavity. In fact, the wound in the haunch was only a few inches deep. From its position, it appeared that any broadhead would have been stopped by bone. I checked inside the body cavity to see if a broadhead had come through. The top of the cavity was clean, and I could find no evidence that it had.
About this time, Tony Polk, the man who claimed he had shot the deer with a bow, walked into the shop. I congratulated him and asked him when he shot the deer. He said he had shot the deer early that morning about 30 minutes after daylight on private property near his house in southwest Cobb County. He said he had seen the deer several times during the past few months and had been hunting him since the opening day of archery season.
We took the deer to a wooded area behind the taxidermy shop and spent the next hour taking photos. While we were taking photos, I asked Tony about the buck’s broken back leg. He said he had tried to hang the deer by its hind legs after he had taken the deer to his home. There were two slits made by a knife in the deer’s back legs between the tendons above the hooves, and it appeared that someone had intended to hang the deer by its back legs. He explained that the rope had broken and that the deer had fallen on one of the back legs, breaking it. After we finished with the photos, we went into the shop and sat down for an interview.
Tony said that he had shot the deer in the hindquarters from a distance of eight or 10 feet while sitting on the limb of a tree at 7:30 that morning. He said the deer had run off and had not left much blood. He said he followed a sparse blood trail for about a mile before giving up and going home. A little while later, as he was driving to work, he said he and his wife found the deer dead on the side of the road. Tony said that while he and his wife were looking at the dead deer, an off-duty game warden happened to drive by in a white pickup truck. Tony said the game warden got out, checked his license and helped him transport the deer back to his house. Tony said he never learned the game warden’s name.
After the interview, I green-scored the massive rack at 171 3/8 non-typical Boone & Crockett points. I knew this was easily a record for Cobb County. According to GON’s County-by County Buck Rankings, the highest-scoring buck from Cobb was a pick-up typical rack that scored 138 5/8.
In an effort to confirm Tony’s story about meeting an off-duty game warden, I immediately called the local DNR Law Enforcement office and left a message for Derek Dillard, one of the two rangers who work Cobb County, to call me. I later talked to both Derek and Mike Barr, the other ranger who works Cobb County. Neither ranger had seen the deer on Monday morning or knew anything about it. What’s more, Derek told me that off-duty rangers always drive their DNR trucks and DNR trucks are green, not white.
Both Derek and Mike became curious about Tony’s story and they decided to investigate the matter further. After several days of talking to people in the area, Derek actually located the man in the white pickup truck. However, he turned out to be a fireman, not a game warden. The fireman, Mitch Austin, told Derek that indeed he had encountered Tony and his wife shortly after they discovered the dead deer on the side of the road. Although Tony insisted that he had shot the deer with a bow, the fireman said the deer appeared to have been hit by a car during the night. He told Derek that it looked like it had been dead several hours.
The fireman later took Derek to the exact spot where the deer had been found. At the scene, Derek found skid marks on the pavement and part of a car’s front headlight assembly with fresh deer hair on it.
Derek and several DNR Law Enforcement officers decided to confront Tony about several contradictions in his story. According to the officers, Tony finally admitted that he had, in fact, found the deer on the side of the road dead, and that he had never hunted it with a bow. No charges were filed against Mr. Polk, but the rack of Cobb County’s biggest buck ever was confiscated by DNR because the road-killed deer had not been reported to law enforcement. Following confiscation of the buck, Tony declined to return a call from GON.
It’s a shame that a buck of this magnitude was not taken legally by an ethical bowhunter. However, thanks to the hard work by Derek Dillard and Mike Barr the truth finally came out.
Like so many great bucks, this west Cobb giant was the victim of a car. How could such a big buck make such a dumb mistake? Was it chasing a doe on that fateful night? Who can say?
One thing is certain: because Cobb County is archery-only, the trophy potential in west Cobb is excellent.
Cobb County Best Bucks Of All-Time
Rank Score Name Year County Method Photo 1 200 5/8 (NT) Lee Ellis 2019 Cobb Bow View 2 163 2/8 Grant Foster 2013 Cobb Bow View 3 157 2/8 Lee Ellis 2015 Cobb Bow View 4 150 7/8 Mark Willingham 2011 Cobb Bow View 5 150 1/8 Tommy Willingham 2010 Cobb Crossbow 6 149 5/8 Hamilton Barrett 2017 Cobb Bow View 7 149 Michael Waldrop 2000 Cobb Found 8 148 2/8 Martin Meeks 2019 Cobb Bow View 9 147 3/8 Kyle Goggins 2021 Cobb Bow View 10 146 4/8 Scott Wallace 2019 Cobb Found
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